Using Japanese design sensibilities to simplify the home

 

New generations of Japanese architects believe the world has fallen out of love with cold steel and concrete towers. We are all looking for a human-friendly alternative that most say has roots in the graceful simplicity of traditional Japanese esthetics.

Photo Credit © [Jeremy Shantz]
 
Photo Credit © [Jeremy Shantz]
New generations of Japanese architects believe the world has fallen out of love with cold steel and concrete towers. We are all looking for a human-friendly alternative that most say has roots in the graceful simplicity of traditional Japanese esthetics. Instead of pursuing the monuments that scream economic power or the more obvious home consumer products, this new generation is scoring success with a uniquely Japanese reinterpretation of the past, a simple Zen philosophy to incorporate that open feel of simplicity into their daily lives. Unlike their predecessors, who modernized Japan with Western style, I prefer to talk of fluidly defining space with screens or sliding doors, innovatively blending with nature, taking advantage of and incorporating natural materials and light, all trademarks of Old Japanese design.

In my small town of Salmon Arm, I was interested in the many arts of Japanese culture including bonsai, ikebana “flower arranging,” shodo “the way of writing” and teahouse design. Summer exchange students, a father practicing Zen Buddhism and a constant feed of Japanese art from my older brother maintained my interest in the overall simplicity of the Japanese approach. I loved everything about Japan and more recently, I see the benefits of simplifying my life and, more importantly, my surroundings.

Japanese architecture offers warmth and kindness in its use of natural light and its seamless craftsmanship of natural materials, such as bamboo and paper. Creating a comfortable and luxurious spot even in a cramped space is the basic principle of Japanese design and, more specifically, the teahouse feel. Instead of trying to separate myself from the world outside my window, I have tried to incorporate the view outside to create a more open feel to my daily surroundings. The patio becomes my garden and my windowsill becomes my garden’s edge, not a frame through which to view it.

It is challenging for me to be simple in my tastes, to avoid extravagance, to own no possessions, not to crave worldly success. However, it has been true since ancient times that the wise are rarely rich, as reflected in their home or surroundings.
 
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About the author

Obsessive collector and sculptor of things, Shantz lives and bleeds for those moments of collaboration.

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